Via Susan Latham Carr: The Yankees have reached an agreement to relocate their High-A Florida State League affiliate out of Tampa and up the road a hundred miles or so to Ocala. We first heard the team was in talks with the city of Ocala last December, after plans with Orlando fell through. “I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s a good quality-of-life-type venue,” said Ocala mayor Kent Guinn.
The agreement is in place but the deal is not yet final. Staff will present the agreement to the Ocala City Council tomorrow, where they will also discuss plans for a new $45 million facility. The new building will be used for more than just baseball and will be paid for by a half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years. The tax hike and several other things must be voted on before the deal is finalized. Preliminary polls show the public is in favor of the deal. If everything goes smoothly, the relocation could be complete in time for Opening Day 2016.
Josh Leventhal says the relocation of the High-A squad will not change anything regarding Spring Training. The Yankees still have 12 years remaining on a 30-year contract that locks them into Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for Spring Training. The Yankees are looking to move their High-A affiliate out of Tampa to improve the market. They currently have to compete with the Rays, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and various collegiate sports. High-A Tampa averaged 1,827 fans per game this past season, fourth highest in the historically attendance-starved FSL.